Fight Gas Pump Skimmers

The City Sealer has been asked to expand inspections to protect consumers who use credit cards to buy gasoline or other motor fuels due to the increased use of skimmers.

Skimmers are illegal devices that can copy the electronic data encoded into a credit card.  Criminals who commit identity theft use that data to make counterfeit credit cards or to make electronic purchases without the victim’s knowledge.

Some devices are placed on the outside of a credit card reader.  Some are portable devices that can be used to capture data when a restaurant server takes possession of a credit card to collect payment for a meal.  And some can be installed inside a retail-fueling device to capture data whenever a credit card is used to purchase gasoline.

Such devices were reported in Arizona, Florida, and even Milwaukee in recent months.  Many service station owners have implemented their own security measures to protect their customers.

If evidence of illegal activity is found, the City Sealer will immediately notify police and the U.S. Secret Service, which investigates allegations of identity theft.

Avoid Victimization by Credit Card Skimmers

Anyone who uses a credit card can fall victim to a “skimmer” if they’re not careful.  While our City Sealer is taking steps to combat skimmers on fueling devices, they can be installed on any device that is used for a credit or debit card transaction.

Here are some steps that a careful consumer should consider:

  • While the vast majority of restaurants take steps to protect their customers, some credit card thieves recruit restaurant servers who secretly record your credit card data when you charge a meal.  Whenever possible, consider bringing the check to the cashier yourself.
  • Check your credit card statements regularly and report any discrepancies immediately.  The Truth-in-Lending Act limits consumer liability to $50 once a credit card is reported lost or stolen.  Some issuers may waive the $50 fee.
  • Debit cards fall under a different law – the Electronic Fund Transfer Act.  Liability is limited to $50 if you notify your financial institution within 2 business days of discovering that your debit card was lost or stolen.  If you wait more than 2 business days, but notify your bank within 60 days of the date your statement is mailed, you could lose up to $500.  Wait longer than that, and you could lose all the money in your account.
  • If someone used your credit without your knowledge, contact the companies in question.  Be sure to put complaints in writing.
  • Also contact the three major credit bureaus:  Equifax at (800) 525-6285, Experian at (888) 397-3742, and Trans Union at (800) 680-7289 if you discover fraudulent activity.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission at (877) 438-4338.  While federal investigators only tend to pursue larger, more sophisticated fraud cases, they do monitor identity theft crimes of all levels with the hope of discovering patterns and breaking up larger rings.  Fill out the ID Theft Affidavit at the FTC’s website, make copies, and send to creditors.  The agency also has an online complaint form.
  • Alert the police.  Fill out a police report and consider signing a written affidavit verifying that unauthorized transactions on your account are fraudulent.  Send copies to creditors and credit bureaus as proof of the crime.

Most skimmers don’t capture PIN numbers.  Whenever possible, use a card that requires a pin number.